Kolkata:No prima donna could have scripted a better comeback to the big stage. After endless weeks of controversies, Shoaib Akhtar's IPL debut would have given goosebumps to his hardest critics.
The Kolkata bowler's unadulterated pace and steamy aggression left Delhi in shambles, handing them an unlikely loss in a low-scoring game. Delhi fell 23 short chasing Kolkata's 133 in this battle for the fourth spot in the points table.
Shoaib blew Delhi's top order away, taking Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, AB de Villiers and Manoj Tiwary in one breathless spell that read 3-0-11-4. This time, there would be no confused loyalties for Eden Garden's 100,000 spectators. They were firmly behind the home side, meeting each bit of the Knight Riders' success with frenzied cheering, while receiving Delhi's boundaries and wickets with stoned silence.
Sehwag edged his first ball behind. Next over, Shoaib had Gambhir slap one straight to point. In the next over, de Villiers mistimed a pull and the next ball and Tiwary was plumb in front of a shrill in cutter. Shoaib was hitting the 150-kmph mark, and the damage had been inflicted on Delhi.
Kolkata's next worry was to remove the two dangerous Lankans - Ferveez Maharoof and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Both fell to spectacular run outs. Dilshan couldn't beat throw from Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Maharoof was caught napping by a direct hit from Ashok Dinda in his follow through.
With the match teetering at 30 runs needed from the last 18, Kolkata captain Sourav Ganguly handed the ball to Shukla, who hadn't bowled in the innings. The risk paid off. Shukla cleaned up the Delhi tail in that over, taking 3-6 in five balls.
Earlier in the day, Ganguly had elected to bat on a wicket that looked good for batting. But only Salman Butt (48) and David Hussey (31) had the runs to show.
Unlike their match against Chennai when Delhi's spinners were taken for plenty, their leg spinner Amit Mishra had figures of 3-0-13-0 to ensure the fifth bowler did not bleed runs and waste the seamers' hard work.
Maharoof (4-0-25-2), Pradeep Sangwan (4-0-29-1) and Yo Mahesh (4-0-33-2) did a terrific job to back up Glenn McGrath (4-0-22-0), who was his miserly best.